Children's House Visits Green Mountain Orchard
October 16, 2015


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Next Week at Hilltop
Notes from the Head of School
Annual Fund Week
Toddler Program and Children's House
Lower Elementary (LE)
Upper Elementary (UE)
Middle School (MS)
Middle School Soup
Hilltop Helpers
Community News
Next Week at Hilltop
Monday 10/19
Middle School Soccer Game at Compass

Tuesday 10/20
Lower El Field Trip to Black Mountain
Cultural Cooking
SSAT Prep Course
LE Soccer Game vs Putney at Putney Central School
Upper El Soccer Practice

Wednesday 10/21
Historical Fencing
Middle School Soccer Practice

Thursday 10/22
Parent Teacher Conferences
Noon Dismissal

Friday 10/23
Parent Teacher Conferences
No School

Childcare is available for both Conference days, please sign up at the front desk!

Check out the 2015-16 School Calendar 

Coming Up...

Monday 10/26
Annual Fund Week
School Picture Retakes
MS Home Soccer Game vs Grammar School

Wednesday 10/28
MS Home Soccer Game vs St. Michaels

Friday 10/30
Spooky Costume Bowling Night

Monday 11/2
Teacher In-Service Day
No School

Check out the Monday and Wednesday Middle School soccer game schedule here.

Notes from the Head of School

The Strategic Planning process continues!!

As some of you may recall, last Spring we began the process of developing a new Strategic Plan for the school. The last 5-year Strategic Plan was done in 2010 (Strategic Plan 2010) and we have achieved, or made progress towards achieving, all of the goals laid out at that time, see the results here.

It is time to think again about the "strategic" goals for Hilltop Montessori School. We employed Greg Hessel
(LE and MS parent) to help facilitate this process. Last Spring, we initiated the process with a public meeting and conducted surveys of current parents, parents who left, board members, staff, and community stakeholders. With this input, Greg will lead the board and staff through a process of analyzing  the strengths and weaknesses/vulnerabilities of the school. We will then identify and prioritize some key issues around which to focus the strategic plan. Some initial topics and questions include: increasing diversity (economic and other), use of technology, addressing foreign language, development of a facilities master plan, considering program expansion, and pursuing Montessori accreditation.

The board and key staff members will be meeting all day this Saturday to discuss these topics further. We will then be holding a staff meeting on November 2nd In-Service Day (Reminder - no school on Monday-November 2nd!) to further explore the key considerations that emerge. Then all of this discussion and consideration will result in a document laying out the agreed upon Strategic Goals, timeline, milestones, and players responsible. 

This is a rewarding time to be involved in this school. The obvious components of beautiful facilities, exemplary staff, and solid programs from Toddler through Middle School are in place. We now have choices to make about where we put our efforts! If you have any comments or questions about the past or present strategic planning process, please let me know - find me at pick-up/drop-off or email me at [email protected].
Annual Fund Week

It's the most wonderful time of year (in the Development Office, anyway). That's right, we're gearing up for Hilltop's Annual Fund Week, October 26th-30th, 2015!

"Whoa, whoa, whoa" - you might be thinking. "Hilltop is asking my family for money? But we already pay tuition!"

Here's the deal - Hilltop, just like all independent schools, tries to keep tuition as affordable as possible for as many families as possible. Full tuition does not cover the cost of each student. It's true! As a matter of fact, there is about a $1000 gap between tuition cost and the actual cost of a Hilltop education. So, here's what we do: we ask families, alumni, alumni families, grandparents, alumni grandparents, businesses, and whomever else we can think of - to help us close that gap by giving tax-deductible contributions that suit their financial ability.

"What's all the hubbub about 100% participation from families?"

The higher the current family participation in the Annual Fund, the more likely we are to appeal to major donors. Money breeds more money for our school. Major donors and foundations are impressed and feel better about giving funds to an organization that is supported by its constituents. Think about it. If you were a major philanthropist, wouldn't you rather give to an organization with the full support of its constituents than one that, say only 30% of members supported?

"Alright, alright, I'm starting to see the point. How much should I give?"

That part is really up to you. Last year gifts from current parents ranged from $20 to $2000 with an average gift of $265. Many families who felt strapped but wanted to give a little bit more opted to pay a smaller amount automatically each month using Paypal. $10 a month for nine months is an amazing gift!

"Why limit the Annual Fund ask to only a week?"

We approach the staff, faculty, board and current parent community first because this is the group that sets the tone for Annual Fund giving for the rest of our Hilltop community and beyond.  Shouting from the rooftops that we have 100% support of our constituents sends a very strong message that we're worthy of support! And our fund grows.

"What if this is a bad time of year for my family to give?"

That's okay. You can always make a pledge during Annual Fund week and pay later. You have until June 30th to make a contribution to the Annual Fund for 2015.

"Okay, show me the FUN!"

Oh, there will be fun! We'll have daily email blasts with updates on our progress, some great challenges with homemade delicious incentives, and other surprises culminating in a ghoulish costumed bowling party for all ages and abilities on Friday, October 30th, from 4 to 6pm at Brattleboro Bowl. More details to come.

School Picture Retakes

Photographer Meaghan Fagley will be back to Hilltop on Monday, October 26th at 9:00am to retake photos.  Please let Rebecca at the front desk know if this is something that you are interested in.

Toddler Program and Children's House

"Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed." - Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori believed in supporting children's innate drive towards independence. In our classrooms, we support children learning to care for themselves.  This is done both through a "prepared environment" (for example, having tissues and a mirror at a child sized table), and through direct instruction (e.g. giving the children a lesson in how to use a tissue.)  It is helpful to have a consistent approach at home and at school.

You can help support your child's independence in many different ways, especially when it comes to getting dressed.  

1) When choosing clothes think about items that are easy to take on and off and are OK to get dirty. Loose shirts, pants with elastic waist bands, and slip-on or velcro shoes are the easiest items for children to manage.  Save buttons, snaps, and laces until your child is ready for the challenge, has been given lessons (by you and teachers) on how to use these fasteners, and lots of opportunities for practice!  Labeling clothing helps children and teachers keep track of the garments (and other items) belonging to the almost 50 students in the Toddler and Children's House programs.

2) When you teach your child how to dress, break down each task. For example, think about all the steps it takes to put on a pair of pants, and keep this in mind when guiding your child to do the same.  At first, your child may need you to help her balance, scrunch up a pant leg, or start a zipper.  Keep things positive and avoid correcting: if your child works for 15 minutes at putting on her shirt and it's backwards, it's OK to let it go. Her sense of pride is worth too much to point out what she didn't get!  She may even realize her own mistake and fix it independently. 

Thinking about ways to make things easier or children to do for themselves, whether using a stool to help children reach a sink or getting easy-open lunch containers, is a great way to support independence.  By pairing those environmental supports with step-by-step lessons, you can help your child do all the things he or she can't wait to to do alone!
Why is independence so important?  Children who can do things for themselves build confidence, self-reliance, and develop a sense of belonging because they have skills they can use to contribute to their families, friends, and community. And, though it takes longer at first, it eventually saves you time by having them able to care for themselves!

Rock Climbing
Henry and Ellie Serve themselves a snack

Hanging up the backpack!
Ellie puts on her shoe

Green Mountain Orchard Field Trip Pictures, ENJOY!

Lower El

The cultural curriculum is the heart of Lower El.  Math, reading, and writing are taught on an ongoing basis with cultural and science topics running parallel to lessons. The training that our Montessori teachers have had covers cultural and science studies including, geography (maps and flags, continent studies, land and water formations), biology (parts and functions of animals and plants, Who Am I? cards, first classification), and history (representing time with timelines and calendars; the study of fundamental needs; the Clock of Eons and theTimeline of Life, which show the arrival of all the varied life forms on earth, and the order in which they came.) 

At the moment, Lower El is studying the composition of the earth.  These lessons include naming the layers of the earth, a discussion of radiant and passive heat, moisture in the atmosphere, and the different layers of the atmosphere.  Soon we will move on to the study of mountains and volcanoes as part of this geography unit.  

Our first continent study is Australia and the surrounding islands.  Sometimes we refer to it as Oceania.  Learning about a continent is a great opportunity to study its biomes, animals, plants, and people, as well as the diverse countries of that continent.  Our fundamental needs curriculum is woven throughout this study, as we constantly ask "How do the animals of the desert meet their needs?"  "How does living in the grasslands influence what kind of homes people build, or the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the traditional music that they enjoy?"  In asking these questions, and thinking about their answers, we are making connections between the people of different cultures and parts of the world.  We recall the continent we last studied, Africa, and compare its biomes with Australia's.  How much bigger and more diverse Africa is!  Australia is mostly desert and grasslands-overall, a very dry continent.  Africa contains over fifty countries, while Australia is both a continent and a country.

Biology studies in Lower El are focusing on plants this term.  We teach the plants in the order in which they first appeared on earth, just as we do with the animals: First the seaweeds, then the moss, the ferns, the pine trees (plants with woody stems), and last of all, the flowering plants.  Inserted somewhere in there will be fungi, as they are not true plants, but give us a nice basis for comparison.  Even in biology, we ask the question, "How does this plant meets its' needs?  How does it make food?  What does it need to survive?"  Flowers need more light than moss; moss must always be near a water source.  Ferns were the first vascular plants to appear on earth.  

When you hear a child or a teacher speak of the cultural curriculum in Lower El, be assured that we are not discussing the latest movies or museum exhibits, but rather, the entire world, divided into fascinating categories.

Have a good weekend.
Kerstin and Patrick


Upper EL

We have started examining human migration as part of our study of early humans. To help students deepen their understanding of human migration, each student will learn about his or her own family's migration story.  Students have been working at home on interview questions to help structure conversations about their family's migration story. Each student is expected to interview two or three grandparents or other family members.  Interviews can happen in person or over the phone. Students will then turn the information they gather into written narratives. We hope this project will generate some good storytelling within your families!

Remember, interviews are to be completed this weekend!

We are now enjoying our field trip at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, have a wonderful weekend!

Middle School

It has been a week of presentations and finishing up a number of projects before the end of our study, "A Walk in the Woods" and conferences next week.  Final drafts of lab reports, redrafts of the "Hidden Roots" five paragraph essay, executing the observation, art and science based classification project, and the first formal presentation for the Naturalist Project all took place during the week.  Students are also preparing for their first student directed conference by writing an extensive self-evaluation and building an elective portfolio to illustrate their words.  

On Friday we are off for the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA to be part of an ongoing study of the effects of moose and deer browsing in this research forest.  The week following conferences we are leaving Upland and the forest and heading into town for a six week study of the fundamentals of human society.

See you at conferences.

Middle School Soup

Starting October 30th the middle school will be selling soup every Friday! After school we will be selling delicious homemade soup at the pick up circle. The soups will include: Potato Leek, Butternut Squash, West African Peanut, Tomato Lentil, Black Bean and Corn Chowder.
All the soups are vegan and gluten-free! The money made will go toward our Boston odyssey. So when you buy family dinner, you will be helping us have life changing connections. The soups cost is $8 a jar.

You can sign up for a subscription at the front desk. With a subscription you will have a soup ready for you every Friday for seven weeks. The cost is $56 for one jar a week and $102 for two jars. 

Forms are due October 28th. If you want hot soup every week guaranteed to be there, just fill out the form at the front desk! You'll be glad you did! We are excited and we hope you are as well!

Hilltop Helpers

Hilltop Montessori School has a wonderful group of helpful families supporting each other in many ways: carpools, meals in time of need, hand-me-down snow pants, etc. We would like to provide this space in the newsletter as a place that people can share needs and "gifts" with the rest of the Hilltop community. 

If you have a need, or a service or item to offer, let the FRONT DESK know and we'll get it in the newsletter!

Community News

Free 5-Week Parenting Education Series
A six session Parenting Class sponsored by Building Bright Futures, The Winston Prouty Center, and Wyndham Southeast Supervisory Union called Positive Parenting Solutions is beginning on October 27th. This is for parents of children ages 3-6 years old. Dinner and child care will be provided. Everything is free! Flyers at the front desk.

Express Fluency is now offering French classes!
Did you "take" French in school but struggle to speak it? Do you travel to Quebec or France and want to be more comfortable speaking? We are offering an Intermediate French weekend intensive in Brattleboro. Come to a FREE class to get a better sense of this different way to learn a language.  Monday from 7-8pm, Main Street in Brattleboro. For more information at or call 

Youth Battle of the Bands 
Area youth bands can launch their musical careers by competing at Youth Services' Battle of the Bands at the River Garden on Friday, November 6, during Gallery Walk night, from 7 to 10 p.m.  For more information, contact Nanci Leitch.

Hilltop Montessori School